Am I still liable for alleged dead tree after selling the house?

8 Replies

Days after I had called the cops on my neighbor for yet again parking in my driveway, he texted me claiming my tree was leaning toward his property, asking me to take it down. I asked him why he thought that as it looked the same to me. A few weeks later he sent me a certified letter with some brand new arbhorist from 120 miles away (we live in a big city, he was shopping for someone who would agree with him IMO) to say the tree was dead. Of course he trespassed on my property to assess the tree, and the assessment is questionable IMO.


I've since sold the property. I did not disclose the tree issue to the buyer since it wasn't specifically called out on Form 17 (WA) and the assessment was questionable. I tried to get it assessed before I sold but couldn't get an appointment in time.

How do I transfer liability back to the neighbor for letting the new owner know? Or basically how do I absolve myself from liability here? Send a certified letter to the neighbor telling him to take the issue up with the buyer? Send a letter to the buyer? Or both? Or perhaps the new owner is liable regardless? What do I do in this situation? The attorney offered to send a letter to one or both parties for $500. Something I could do myself. But I just want to be certain I won't be held liable at this point, so maybe it's worth it to pay the attorney for this?

I feel you should have disclosed the situation to the buyer and made them aware of the situation. It would have been the buyers choice on how to access the problem and it it an undisclosed material fact possible hurting the value of the property. The outcome depends on the condition of the tree and the new cost to the new owner   No legal advice given just my opinion

I deal with tree issues pretty regularly as a surveyor. Do you know the tree is completely on your property? Does you city/subdivision have any rules for nuisance trees? If the neighbor hasn't filed a specific complaint for negligence then you have nothing more than a pesky neighbor. To be safe, you should consult your attorney, but I doubt you have anything to worry about. It's the same as complaining about where you put your trash cans at the street.🙄

Clint

Originally posted by @Clint Shelley :

I deal with tree issues pretty regularly as a surveyor. Do you know the tree is completely on your property? Does you city/subdivision have any rules for nuisance trees? If the neighbor hasn't filed a specific complaint for negligence then you have nothing more than a pesky neighbor. To be safe, you should consult your attorney, but I doubt you have anything to worry about. It's the same as complaining about where you put your trash cans at the street.🙄

Clint

The tree is right on my side of the property line mostly, he has a fence next to it. I'm not 100% sure the property lines are accurate. I don't think I'm out of the woods just because he hasn't filed a complaint of negligence, he could still do that in court if it falls. Technically the event if it happened would be on the new owners watch, not mine, but they could come back and say you never told us. I would think the neighbor would have some responsibility for taking it up with the new owner, as it's entirely their choice.

If any of the tree is on his side, he owns part of it. Until the property line is known, nobody can much more than posturing, because nobody knows who owns the tree for sure. I would make him prove you used to own the tree. 

Clint

Originally posted by @Clint Shelley :

If any of the tree is on his side, he owns part of it. Until the property line is known, nobody can much more than posturing, because nobody knows who owns the tree for sure. I would make him prove you used to own the tree. 

Clint

That may be the law in Alabama, but not sure about Washington. The majority of the tree, the upper portions are well over the fence into his property. But the trunk of the tree is on my side.

Then it's your tree, it is just encroaching into his airspace. Je could cut the limbs up until the property line. If his cutting  endEd up damaging the tree, then he could be liable. If nothing has happened, you have nothing to worry about. I do a survey for this same situation about once a month. Trees do have their own little slice of case law as they have caused many law suits. 2 rules to remember: if the tree hasn't fallen or you haven't contractually agreed to cut it there isn't a need for a suit. Secondly, a suit only goes as far as the money takes it. Good luck.